Former Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu chairperson Avigdor Liberman led members of his party on Tuesday to visit Ma'ale Adumim, a suburb city to the east of Jerusalem over the 1949 Armistice line that sits looking over the Judean desert.
There Liberman criticized the government for not building and developing the E1 area which connects Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's promises to develop the region. The US administration has been sharply opposed to Jewish construction in the area, which has seen Arab squatters try to fill the void with their presence.
"Unlike others we are visiting these places even after the elections," said Liberman. "I think that one of the reasons that we aren't members of the coalition, and that we didn't join the government, is Ma'ale Adumim."
Yisrael Beytenu gave a poor showing in elections, receiving just six seats. In refusing to join the coalition, Liberman said he was doing so because of its lack of nationalist values, after his demands to have the destruction of Hamas and other such goals written into a coalition agreement were rejected.
Liberman clarified on Tuesday that another one of his coalition demands that was rejected was building in Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria; Netanyahu's coalition has been imposing a total freeze on Jewish building in the area since late 2013, as well as a near total freeze in eastern Jerusalem.
"There is no doubt that Ma'ale Adumim will be an integral part of the state of Israel in any agreement, and therefore we don't understand why they aren't building here," said Liberman.
"I hope that this government will recover its composure and instead of dealing with agreements with Hamas and whether or not to build a port in Gaza, that they build here in Ma'ale Adumim," said Liberman, accusing Likud members of refusing to obligate themselves to building in the region. "It cannot be that for years permits are not given to build new neighborhoods. We will fight for this issue."
While Liberman came out forcefully in favor of E1, in his elections campaign he made clear that he was amenable to handing over other parts of Israel, such as when he proposed giving the massive "triangle" region in northern Israel that contains roughly 300,000 Arab citizens of Israel to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to be included in a Palestinian state.
As for E1, the US and other Western countries have sharply criticized Israel for building plans in the area, siding with the PA that has said an Israeli neighborhood in the area would break up the chain of Arab settlement from Bethlehem in Judea to Ramallah in Samaria.
However, Israeli governments have made clear that Ma'ale Adumim is to remain within Israel's borders in any peace deal. The US has not addressed how the lack of continuity between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim would affect the possibility of an agreement with workable borders.